Scientific Explanation [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 24 (4):754-755 (1971)

Abstract
As the author states, this book could be read as an introductory text on scientific explanation and related topics or as a monograph which introduces some new ideas and takes a stand on these topics. Part I is strictly a textbook treatment of explanations and laws. It is clearly written and is particularly good in the classification of sorts of explanations. Part II is less successful as introductory material, but it contains some novel ideas. The author develops an approach to explanation, prediction, and retrodiction by considering discrete state systems. He shows that for any number of simple systems of this kind, deterministic and probabilistic explanation, prediction, and retrodiction may not work. The discussion is abstract and the results are not related to actual physical systems. But the possibility of such systems is surely important for any complete theory of explanation as the author suggests. Discussions are also included of teleological systems and of confirming evidence. Part III discusses philosophical issues about the nature of laws, causality, indeterminism, and the limits of explanation. Two appendices discuss problems of scientific explanation in history and the social sciences. There is a long and very useful bibliography.--R. H. K.
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